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New visa rules in UK may lead to job cuts for Indian doctors

The United Kingdom's proposed visa regime changes may hit employment opportunities of the Indian doctors in the country. The visa changes have been recommended to ensure that the UK and European workers are given priority for skilled jobs over immigrants, the Press Trust of India reports.

The UK Migration Advisory Committee has recommended introducing a new test called the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) if the employers wish to recruit a migrant from outside the workforce for skilled jobs. The RLMT will apply to doctors moving from Foundation Year 2 (initial medical training) to speciality training.

The changing visa regimes has led to a considerable drop in the number of Indian doctors in the UK to 6,880 in 2015 from around 10,265 in 2009. The latest visa change proposal if cleared by the government could lead to a further decline in these figures.

At present, the medical students and doctors studying in UK medical colleges are on a Tier 4 visa. As they move on to apply for the speciality training, they switch to Tier 2 visa to apply for speciality training posts. The suggested visa changes, likely to be introduced later this year, will lead to UK trained overseas doctors not being able to receive higher qualifications. 

UK's National Health Service, the publicly funded health care system overseen by the Department of Health, recruited 3,000 doctors from overseas in 2014 to tackle staff shortage at various hospitals across the country, The Guardian reports.

Meanwhile, the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), a representative body of nearly 50,000 Indian-origin doctors in the country, has decided to write to the UK Home Office warning of an impending "chaos" for NHS.

"We want to ensure Indian doctors are not used simply as a pair of hands to service the NHS. They should be treated equally as local doctors and given proper training before they return to their countries of origin," BAPIO President Ramesh Mehta told PTI .

The BAPIO had earlier facilitated a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Heart of England, NHS Foundation and the Maharashtra government, under which 10 doctors from India are being trained in emergency medicine in UK.

"It was a win-win situation since the emergency medicine is at a nascent stage in India and thus the Indian doctors would get trained in that speciality. The UK's problem of manpower shortage would also get solved," Mehta added.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has already registered its concerns over such changes in a letter to UK Immigration Minister James Brokenshire.

"UK medical graduates from overseas and international medical graduates are essential members of our medical workforce and the NHS is dependent on them to provide high- quality, reliable and safe services to patients.

"These changes ignore that key fact and if they are implemented by the government they could have a series of unintended and harmful consequences for patient care and the wider NHS," Chair of BMA Council Mark Porter told The Guardian.